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Charles Pillow Large Ensemble: Electric Miles

Jack Bowers By

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So how does trumpeter Miles Davis' post-1969 "electric period" translate to a big-band format? About as well as could be expected, thanks to leader Charles Pillow's bright arrangements for his New York-based Large Ensemble. Davis' seminal Columbia albums from 1969-1972—In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Live at Fillmore East, Live-Evil, On the Corner—are considered by many to have ushered in the jazz / rock / fusion era, which could be a good thing or otherwise, depending on one's point of view.

While opinions may vary as to the course Davis and others chose to pursue, it's clear he was into something new, much as Parker, Gillespie and their peers were a quarter-century or more before with the introduction of bebop, which turned the jazz world on its head. Davis was an integral part of that movement as well but chose to veer elsewhere, carving a new niche for himself and fellow-travelers such as Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and others, one that may not have pleased many of those steeped in more customary forms of jazz but at the same time drew a fresh audience to the music. Shorter and Zawinul are represented here, Shorter via his composition "Sanctuary," Zawinul by three others: "Pharaoh's Dance," "In a Silent Way" and "Directions." Also on hand is saxophonist David Liebman whose burnished soprano saxophone is heard on "Black Satin," as it was on the original recording of On the Corner, and on Davis' "Yesternow."

Trumpeters Tim Hagans and Clay Jenkins take turns sitting in for Davis, with other solos by Pillow (alto sax, alto flute), trombonist Michael Davis and tenor Luke Norris. The ensemble, it should be noted, is sharp and steady with drummer Jared Schonig underscoring the rhythm in the best Tony Williams / Jack DeJohnette tradition and everyone else in a harmonious groove, bringing out the best in Pillow's meticulous charts. Fans of Davis—especially those who dug his music from the '70s onward—should find much to absorb and appreciate in Electric Miles.

Track Listing: Pharoah’s Dance; Bitches Brew; Black Satin; In A Silent Way; Directions; Sanctuary; Yesternow; Spanish Key.

Personnel: Charles Pillow: arranger, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, alto flute; Colin Gordon: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Luke Norris: tenor saxophone, clarinet; CJ Ziarniak: tenor saxophone; Karl Stabnau: bass clarinet; Michael Davis: trombone; Abe Nouri: trombone; Jack Courtright: trombone; Gabe Ramos: bass trombone; Tony Kadleck lead trumpet; Charlie Carr: trumpet; Clay Jenkins: trumpet; Tim Hagans: trumpet; Julian Garvue: electric piano; Chuck Bergeron: electric bass; Mike Forfia: acoustic bass (4, 6); Jared Schonig: drums; David Liebman: soprano saxophone (3, 7).

Title: Electric Miles | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: MAMA Records

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